This season of harvest, I’m going to take a page from my ancestors and craft a little old-fashioned cornucopia magic. Because if “gratitude attitude” is the key to prosperity nothing says it better than the ole’ horn of plenty. Spilling with fruits, grains, gourds and flowers, this beloved emblem of earthly abundance, pleasure, healing and good fortune has been presiding over harvest festivals, feasts and revelry – since time immemorial.
Today it still adorns Thanksgiving tables, but we’ve forgotten that for our ancestors it was once a revered ritual object symbolizing the unlimited procreative powers of mother nature. And as such it was held high by fertility and harvest goddesses such Fortuna, Ceres, Demeter, Abundantia and Flora, who brought forth growth and plant life.
Linked to medieval legends of the Holy Grail, the mystical chalice that returned green to the wasteland, it was the source of life itself. In Norse mythology, the horn was carried by goddess Idun, “The Glorious Maiden Who Knows the Age-Cure of the Aesir’ who dispensed the elixir of immortality and the eternal regeneration of youth.
Cornucopia were also carried by the Mothers or Matrones of ancient Gaul. Countless carvings, votives, statues and shrines dated between the 1st to 7th century, depict the Mothers (divinities associated with rivers, mountains, springs and tree’s) holding cornucopias filled with fruits and grains. Scholars generally agree this “Cult of the Mothers” was a pagan expression of female divinity in nature.
Some believe the cornucopia’s origins date to the upper Palaeolithic and Neolithic, when animal horns were placed on stone altars to evoke invoke the blessings of the bountiful all giving mother, the great goddess who in her cow incarnation, nourished the world through her horns of plenty.
I find this association with horns fascinating. The spiralling structure of horns, like the cornucopias, reflect the spiral patterns of energy manifesting through the natural world, as seen in water, sea shells, the spiral of galaxies, and DNA.
Perhaps in the old goddess/earth worshipping traditions, these horns might have been seen as receiving and broadcasting the life-giving energies of nature, especially considering “broadcast” was once an agricultural term for spreading seed. And as the womb is also composed of spiralling muscle tissue, I think the horn also reflected women’s biological powers to give birth and new life.
So were the “horns of plenty” once seen as vessels for channelling earth’s life-giving energy? Could they have been used during harvest rituals for consecrating plants or objects placed within it? Or to receive prayers that were chanted or spoken into it? Who really knows? But I like to think so.
So in honour of the great mother of all, her goddesses, The Mothers, the herb chanters, plant healers, and wise women whose ritual acts of “thanksgiving” created a horn of plenty, a prosperity magic to bless themselves and the land, I will go into my local woodlands, fields, shores and backyard, with a ceremonial basket.
And in the next few days leading to the Autumn Equinox (known to contemporary pagans as Mabon, Harvest Home, the Feast of the Ingathering and Witch’s Thanksgiving) the day the celestial clock ticks from summer into the official arrival of fall, I will like my ancestors, harvest. And I will give thanks for the abundance of herbs, berries, roots and seeds, provided by mother nature to fortify us in the coming winter.
Then like my foremothers of old, I will take a ceremonial moment to call on the horn of plenty, the holy chalice, to bless this basket. And then of course, also like my ancestors, I will get to work transforming my bounty into a literal cornucopia of delicious fall foods and healing medicines, for myself, family, and community!
So far, I’ve gleaned nettle, milk thistle, wild mustard, lambs-quarters, sheep sorrel, motherwort and wild mugwort seeds, and these along with herbs of rosemary, sage and thyme, will be used to create tasty, nutrient rich seed salts.
Rose-hips and berries, spicy nasturtium blossoms, liquorice fern and burdock roots, will create vitalizing vinegars and nourishing tonics. (Stay tuned I’ll be posting recipes in an upcoming Cornucopia themed post.)
And there will be delicious hawthorn ketchup, acorn cake, crabapple chutney, sage infused honey, wild fennel crackers, Staghorn vodka and wild vermouth as well. Oh and there will be Yarrow and California Poppy tincture too. And this is only the beginning.
But so far the best part of my autumn equinox harvest is this. In this time when the geese fly overhead and the landscape shimmers with the reds and yellows of dying foliage, my basket fills me with “gratitude attitude” for the never-ending ability of the earth to provide. And in the darkening days of encroaching winter it’s a good faith to have.
May you be blessed with prosperity and abundance this season of harvest!